Raw Milk is Woo. Goat’s Milk is Not. And Yes, Plastic is Bad

This week on the SGU Cara decides to trash all things Hippy and all things Austin with the following line,

These are the places where they sell, like, raw goat milk because apparently cow milk is unhealthy. And they have only organic free-range bleah.

Cara Santa-Maria SGU #705

Cara deciding to trash all things Hippy isn’t surprising. There is little at the typical health food store that warrants a special trip there. Little, unless you happen to have special dietary needs. If you have food allergies. If you are lactose intolerant. If any number of food-related issues bother you, the health food store used to be the only place you could go to find relief. Considering that skeptics would claim you couldn’t be allergic to foods, until those allergies could be demonstrated, and still flame-on when anyone mentions the word gluten, panning all things health food related is completely understandable.

I just happen to not react to goat’s milk like I do cow’s milk. So I can drink goat’s milk and suffer little or no ill effects. I still can’t eat pizza, that is too much cheese of any kind, but at least I can put a slice of goat cheese on my hamburger and not have to worry about reacting to the lactose in the cheese. And the best place to get that kind of food is still at a health food store. I buy my oat milk, my Nada Moo, goat cheese and goat milk, and try to restrain myself as I walk past the chocolate and liquorice on the way to the register.

The Wife, who can consume all the cheese she wants because she was descended from Mongols who were raised on yak’s milk, has some very unflattering things to say about us Mediterranean types whose ancestors tended goats and sheep, but I also have some insults I could hurl in return considering she’s pretty much 100% Irish. I won’t utter them because I don’t feel like being beaten up by any Irish who might read this and take offense. I have to be able to sleep sometime. It all comes down to genetics and how your particular gut came to be in the here and now.

Which brings me to the idea of drinking raw milk. If you are drinking raw milk and you don’t milk the cows (or goats. Or sheep) yourself, you are just asking to get sick and possibly be killed by the naturally occuring bacteria found on the udders and in the milk of any animal. And I laugh every time I read the label on cheese and it trumpets made from raw milk. This is just another marketing ploy like organic or natural, since the process of making cheese kills most of the bacteria that lives in the milk. That is why we started making cheese from milk in the first place. If you are still concerned about the possibility of food poisoning, don’t get the cheese made from raw milk. Pasteurization is a good thing. It’s why we have milk on supermarket shelves today.

I mean, we could irradiate the milk and skip the pasteurization flavor change problem, but the fantasists who think that pasteurization is bad also think that irradiation of food is bad. There really is no way to win over everyone. There’s always going to be one or two of them that have to stick their fingers in the electrical outlet before they’ll believe that electric shocks are painful, and there will be at least one guy that swears electrical shocks make him feel better and so recommends you shock yourself two or three times a day.

Steve’s suggestion that bulk foods were useful, while the other offerings at the health food stores were not, is also slightly off-cue. The reason that goods are offered in their own sealed containers should be readily apparent to anyone who gives this much thought. But for those who don’t think a lot, I’ll spell it out. Adulteration or contamination of the product, which was a problem back in the days when everything was offered in bulk quantities. Some nefarious grocers would dilute the products offered and charge the same rate. This is essentially how all vodka is made, but very few people know that their vodka was distilled to 190 proof at the distillery and then cut in half with water at the bottler. There is also the problem of some anonymous others tampering with the bulk products and no one noticing (think Tylenol) as an Austinite, and someone who frequents health food stores for his oat milk and goat’s milk products, I could buy a lot of products in bulk. I just don’t.

Austin is the birthplace of Whole Foods and a few other now-defunct health food chains. I’m an owner at Wheatsville Food Co-op. I could shop in bulk products if I wanted to. I don’t shop in bulk products because I don’t want to have to trust every person who passes by the bulk products bins not to drop their chewing gum in there with my morning steel cut oats. I’ll take the time to recycle the packaging, that is fine by me. I like branded, labeled products in sealed packages. It’s probably the most American thing about me.

I would rather the packaging not be plastic packaging, plastic packaging being the reason that health food stores came up at all in that Skeptic’s Guide episode. I try to avoid plastic packaging when I can, but it is nearly impossible to avoid plastic when it comes to food packaging. You can count me in for testing new packaging that isn’t plastic. Oh, and Jay? You want plastic that breaks down on its own? That also existed once upon a time. They tested plastic bags that degraded in the sun faster when they first rolled out plastic bags, back when everyone was worried about paper demand destroying all the forests. That plastic turned into micro plastics too, just like regular plastic. The only way to avoid this is to create disposable items from something other than plastic. Say, compressed corn starch.

Carrying It Out With You

facebook.com/Stonekettle

twitter.com/schwellenbach

I never stopped being a Boy Scout, myself. When I pack stuff in, that same stuff comes back out with me. Why? Because it is my mess and I clean up my messes. This is the way I live my life.

We recently were in Illinois helping family with a crisis in the making (it’s still in the making, but it may be averted soon) we stayed for a week in a hotel. During our stay, I separated the garbage for the maids into plastic, food waste, etc. They were like “oh, we don’t do recycling”. I still seperated the trash anyway. Why? Because pointing out a deficiency in a status quo is how you get the status quo changed. Every day we spoke to them they apologized for not doing recycling there. With any luck the word got back to a manager and maybe, one day, they’ll take waste management seriously. I’m a dreamer like that.

At least I did something instead of doing nothing. I don’t go to national parks. I don’t spend much time outside because everything that grows is trying to kill me. I am the poster child for a moon colonist. “No green growies? I’m good with that.” I don’t believe in trash. I don’t believe that you can just discard things and they disappear. In a closed system, waste builds up. This is why we have such a hard time establishing self-sustaining ecologies like the habitations we will need for a moon colony.

Waste byproducts limit the time the habitation is viable. That is why a bottle of wine or a bottle of beer gets to about 6% alcohol. Alcohol is the waste product of the yeast on the skins of grapes. The yeast added to the vats of barley malt used to make beer. 6% waste built up in the closed system of vats or bottles and the yeast dies. It dies and we get a beverage that alters our brain chemistry. It also happens to be sterile when prepared properly, the real reason most of our ancestors were drunk pretty much every day of their lives. Water straight out of the river might well kill you in days because of the animal and human waste in it.

Think about what that means. Think about the trash now piling up all over the planet, not just in the parks that currently have no maintenance staff. The trash everywhere that we so casually throw away every, single, day. It’s a feature of human habitation that archeologists find quite useful. The mounds of discarded refuse outside of every place we’ve ever lived in large groups. We now have how many billions? Is it still eight? How long can we little yeast organisms shit out our waste and leave it laying around on every surface near us before we kill the closed system we call Earth?

Pro-labor? I’m pro-future, myself.

This Trump shutdown (#ImpeachTrump for failure to execute his duties. His duties? Keep the government running) presents an opportunity. Concerned citizens who do use the parks regularly should form an organization that tasks itself with protecting the parklands. A charitable organization whose sole duty is to make sure that public lands are protected, even when the government itself is the organization that is destroying the parks. If the Boy Scouts were the organization that they were when I was teen in the scouts, this would be a project they would eagerly take up. It’s too bad those scouts are long gone.

Postscript

This was written during that time when President Trump refused to do his job for a month and sat on the White House lawn sulking like a child. They finally impeached him at the end of the year, but failed to mention the fact that he just wouldn’t do his job for a month. Most likely, they failed to mention that he was derelict in his duties because some of them had been derelict in their duties for a few decades by that point.

I had just been surrounded by Trumpists in rural Illinois, as I tangentially mentioned. Trumpists that I agreed to help because I was related to them and cared about them in spite of their horrible choice in leaders.

That whole episode is something I’d like to block from my memory now. The months spent working on renovation plans all for nothing. The contractor we found rejected because he was one of those pedophile Democrats that couldn’t be trusted. The renovation work done by a local cabinet maker that my relatives loved for some inexplicable reason. I don’t even know that he knew how to pour concrete properly, but they liked his dysfunctional layouts better than mine. I imagine that they still can’t find a place for furniture in that bedroom.

I don’t know why I wrote this piece on Facebook and not on the blog. It’s on the blog now. Featured image from Fast Company – Government Shutdown Update Americas Once-Beautiful National Parks Are Overrun With Trash. They borrowed it from Twitter, in case you didn’t notice.

Virtue Signaling

There is a whole range of personalities under the labels social justice warrior (SJW) and this new thing I’ve never heard of before (no bullshit) it runs the gamut from people who mean well in their intentions to do good to special little snowflakes who cant handle controversy. For example, I loathe people who flaunt their greenness by telling me they drive a Prius. A Prius is just not a very good car. I’ve driven one, I have friends that own them. I don’t like them. They are underpowered and overhyped. If you want to be green, really green, get an electric car and put solar panels on your house roof to charge it. Then you are green as in “minimizing your carbon footprint.” Then you really are virtuous and not just a virtue signaler.

In a similar vein. there are tons (tons!) of SJW’s who think it is their place to defend the poor minorities who’ve been targeted by mean white people, and in the process of defending them they get in the way of perfectly good arguments by members of the group being targeted. I’m happy to be a member of that choir. I will shout amen to the rafters in response to what minorities or other targeted groups might say in their defense. What I won’t do is play the role of great white savior wallowing in my white guilt.

I have nothing to feel guilty for. I’ve never claimed whiteness, for starters. I’d happily let Tejanos run Texas if they stood up and voted like the near-majority they are. I was recycling 30 years ago when I had to drag my damn aluminum cans to the recycler myself in order to do it. I’ve been waiting on electric cars to come into my price range and bought one last year when it was the cheapest car I could find. I’m doing my bit. Can’t ask anything else of me. Please do not attempt to shame me into doing more. You’ll just get on my bad side.

Facebook.


Editor’s note, 2019 – Total miscue on my part. Also? Cringe-worthy moment at only two years distance. I think that is a new record for me. Not that I have any less contempt for virtue signalers. It’s just that most people aren’t so forward about admitting they are assholes. My one and only time using snowflake in this fashion.

…and for that, I apologize. Still waiting for Tejanos to take over Texas. It’s what Texas deserves.

Global Warming Versus Global Greening

For Jason Pratt

Climate science. Climate science features highly in my laundry list of reasons for why I no longer consider myself a libertarian. You couldn’t swing a dead cat in libertarian gatherings without hitting a conspiracy fantasist or a climate denier when I left the Libertarian Party in 2008.

I find the phrase knows just enough to be dangerous to be quite apt when it comes to most things climate science. This applies even more strongly to those within the scientific fields than it does to the man on the street who is just trying to get by in life working three jobs and sharing an apartment with 3 other people.

The video (and transcript) below were shared by a libertarian friend of mine the other day. I initially declined to watch the video after I realized that the article beneath it was just a transcript of the video presentation. The fact that my friend didn’t believe in anthropogenic climate change the last time I talked to him had influenced my kneejerk dismissal of the video as not real science. There was also the looming risk of being sucked into another conspiracy fantasy to factor into the weight I would give any data found within the article.

Everyone has a bias. This is especially true of people who disagree with science.

My friend insisted that I had to watch the video or at least read the transcript, so I bit the bullet and watched. I didn’t expect the video to produce any insights from me that would be accepted by a climate change denier, but I gave it my best shot:

There is a transcript available at this link.

First off, if I had realized that the video was from Global Warming Policy Foundation I might have been a little slower to dismiss it; at least until I had done some research into who was behind such a lofty-sounding name. I don’t write about climate change on this blog very much because, quite frankly, I’m one of the dangerous people. I know just enough about the subject to get myself into trouble and can be (demonstrably have been with other subjects) lead down rabbit holes unless I keep my guard up.

I was slow to buy into the idea that climate change was a thing because of this, and for a brief time was in the same camp as several of my friends (and the late author Michael Crichton as another example) that climate change was some kind of conspiracy. It wasn’t until I ran across this argument presented on 350.org that I realized just how demonstrable AGW was,

Since the beginning of human civilization, our atmosphere contained about 275 ppm of carbon dioxide. That is the planet “on which civilization developed and to which life on earth is adapted.” Beginning in the 18th century, humans began to burn coal, gas, and oil to produce energy and goods. The amount of carbon in the atmosphere began to rise, at first slowly and now more quickly. Many of the activities we do every day like turning the lights on, cooking food, or heating our homes rely on energy sources that emit carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases. We’re taking millions of years worth of carbon, once stored beneath the earth as fossil fuels, and releasing it into the atmosphere.

Right now we’re at 400 ppm, and we’re adding 2 ppm of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere every year. Unless we are able to rapidly turn that around and return to below 350 ppm this century, we risk triggering tipping points and irreversible impacts that could send climate change spinning truly beyond our control.

Ice cores demonstrate that throughout human history (several hundred thousand years in fact) CO2 levels have remained low. What CO2 was prior to human history is hard to determine. Hard to determine because discovering clues to that data in geologic strata is hard. However, as this study notes,

The carbon dioxide (CO2) content of the atmosphere has varied cyclically between ~180 and ~280 parts per million by volume over the past 800,000 years, closely coupled with temperature and sea level. For earlier periods in Earth’s history, the partial pressure of CO2 (pCO2) is much less certain, and the relation between pCO2 and climate remains poorly constrained. We use boron/calcium ratios in foraminifera to estimate pCO2 during major climate transitions of the past 20 million years. During the Middle Miocene, when temperatures were ~3° to 6°C warmer and sea level was 25 to 40 meters higher than at present, pCO2 appears to have been similar to modern levels. Decreases in pCO2 were apparently synchronous with major episodes of glacial expansion during the Middle Miocene (~14 to 10 million years ago) and Late Pliocene (~3.3 to 2.4 million years ago).

If you need help converting meters to feet, it’s about 3 feet to 1 meter. About floor 9 of a beachfront Miami condo for those still not getting the impact of sea level changes in our modern world. Manhattan will eventually be right on the water, which will mean it will take quite a trick to keep water out of those subways in the future.

In any case the speaker, Matt Ridley, agrees with virtually everything the IPCC concludes are science. The one verifiably true thing aside from these concessions of agreement I heard by the 20 minute mark is that:

“We should take predictions of doom with a pinch of salt.”

Well that is a no-brainer. I was reading books like ICE when I was in my teens. I was well aware that we were supposed to be caught up in a returning ice age by the time we got to 2000, according to the doom & gloom types, as the speaker goes into in the video (this is a myth, just FYI. A myth that I believed) I never bought into Al Gore’s propositions of global disaster from global warming; but the science is pretty solid as I noted above, and it is just the models which fail to predict outcomes in any meaningful way.

As far back as 2010 I was noting things like this:

Trees in the Eastern United States are growing faster than they have in the last two centuries in response to Earth’s warming climate, a new study finds.

For more than 20 years forest ecologist Geoffrey Parker, based at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center outside Washington, D.C., has tracked the growth of 55 stands of mixed hardwood forest plots in Maryland.

Parker’s tree censuses over this period have revealed that these forested areas are packing on weight at a much faster rate than expected; on average, the forests are growing an additional 2 tons per acre annually. That works out to the equivalent of a tree with a diameter of 2 feet (0.6 m) sprouting up over a year.

livescience.com

And this in 2014:

Recent research has revealed that trees across the world continue to grow significantly faster than they did before the 1960s, but what’s the cause? Experts from Technische Universität München (TUM) provide evidence and speculation about this mysterious phenomenon in a recent study.

The study, published in the journal Nature Communications, details how the rate of tree growth, particularly in Central Europe, has increased by up to 70 percent over the last few decades.

These findings were based on an analysis of long term data from experimental forest plots that have been in observation since 1870. The plots of forest were designed to serve as a representation for average soil and climate conditions throughout Central Europe.

natureworldnews.com

I replied with this article in the facebook comment thread where this argument started,

Earlier this month, NASA scientists provided a visualization of a startling climate change trend — the Earth is getting greener, as viewed from space, especially in its rapidly warming northern regions. And this is presumably occurring as more carbon dioxide in the air, along with warmer temperatures and longer growing seasons, makes plants very, very happy.

Now, new research in Nature Climate Change not only reinforces the reality of this trend — which is already provoking debate about the overall climate consequences of a warming Arctic — but statistically attributes it to human causes, which largely means greenhouse gas emissions (albeit with a mix of other elements as well).

The roughly three-decade greening trend itself is apparent, the study notes, in satellite images of “leaf area index” — defined as “the amount of leaf area per ground area,” as Robert Buitenwerf of Aaarhus University in Denmark explains in a commentary accompanying the study — across most of the northern hemisphere outside of the tropics, a region sometimes defined as the “extratropics.” Granted, there are a few patches in Alaska, Canada and Eurasia where greening has not been seen.

WaPo – Thanks to climate change, the Arctic is turning green

Before being pestered into watching the full video, commenting on the full transcript. The greening argument is old news for me. I’ve already looked into it. It is an interesting development. Its full impact is still unknown.

What I found most interesting in the talk was Matt Ridley’s note that most dire projections are based on RCP 8.5. I can agree with him on the lunacy of projecting based on this worst-case-scenario outcome. It just makes you look foolish when your predictions turn out to be so incredibly wrong.

Then he goes off the reservation and never returns.

No renewable energy subsidies? Fine. You first. Get the entirety of the rest of the fossil fuels industry to give up their subsidies and we’ll talk. Worse than being disinterested on the subject of Global Warming or Climate Change (which ever label you prefer) Matt Ridley is invested in coal. Lives and dies by demand for coal. I suggest, as I have about a dozen times, that we either remove subsidies from all ventures, or encourage all sound ventures with subsidies.

Sound ventures. That doesn’t me we subsidize ethanol, which I have never understood being considered a green product. However, creation of wind farms across the windier areas of the world, and solar cells on every rooftop that gets moderate sun are completely reasonable propositions and should be subsidized if other forms of energy production are subsidized. I can generate electricity and to spare with solar cells on my roof, and that includes charging my electric car. That is a benefit to me and the planet in general.

He also never mentions that while sea level rise isn’t as bad as projected, any rise in sea levels produces larger disasters than we’ve seen in the past, as both hurricane Sandy and Katrina demonstrated. I’m still betting we are surfing through the ruins of Miami long before the arguments about climate change are settled, and I’m willing to bet the current residents of Miami would find that outcome pretty disastrous.

For what it’s worth, The next to last video loaded on the GWPF stream is the one I find most relevant:

GWPF Report: Why scepticism about peer-reviewed research is essential

This is the problem with modern science. Findings are reported as if they are science by most journalists, when the complete opposite is the case, as the short video goes into. Findings are not science. Findings are discoveries. Duplication of findings is science, the drudge work of science that far too few people show any interest in doing, to the detriment of us all.

Postscript

With time comes additional information. After watching the Global Warming Policy Foundation feed for awhile and tracking the general tone of their reportage, I have to agree with the assessment of others who dismiss them as a nexus of science denial. The name of the group itself screams of astroturfing and their latest video goes out of its way to defend Breitbart and their unapologetic science denial on the subject of global warming. I was really hoping for a group that I could rely on for reportage that wasn’t gloom and doom on the climate change front, but they aren’t a source I would rely on.

This episode of Inquiring Minds fits the hopeful climate change news bill pretty well:


SpotifyInquiring Minds 159 David Grinspoon – Earth in Human Hands: Shaping Our Planet’s Future

Even in the face of the triumph of climate deniers and outright economic criminals (the looming election of the OHM) in that episode of Inquiring Minds the astrobiologist David Grinspoon sounds a hopeful note for the future, pointing out that we are already moving in new directions climate-wise with or without our governments attempts to influence our behavior.

Featured Image from the Conversation article on Green Australia

My First Electric Car

We recently bought a used Nissan Leaf. I am still waiting to see what charging it will cost, but I have a hard time believing it will be more expensive to run than the overly complex machinery built into the average internal combustion engine. Hopefully this story is correct.

Morning Edition – It May Not Cost You More To Drive Home In A Climate-Friendly Car – September 27, 2016


I had no idea that I would need a postscript to this post, but I really didn’t know that the Koch’s were this stupid.  They’ve decided to go to war with Elon Musk over the future of the electric car.

The oil and gas industry may have thought it had killed the electric car, but sales — boosted by generous government subsidies — rose dramatically between 2010 and 2014, and energy giants are worried the thing may have come back to life.

Time to kill it again.

A new group that’s being cobbled together with fossil fuel backing hopes to spend about $10 million dollars per year to boost petroleum-based transportation fuels and attack government subsidies for electric vehicles, according to refining industry sources familiar with the plan. A Koch Industries board member and a veteran Washington energy lobbyist are working quietly to fund and launch the new advocacy outfit.

Huffington Post

Elon Musk, of course, wasted no time and no snark when it came to responding to this threat.  As the linked article rightly notes, electric vehicles are not the only vehicles that receive subsidies.  Oil fueled vehicles, plastics (everything) is enabled by heavy subsidies to the oil and gas industry.

Planet Money – Oil #4: How Oil Got Into Everything – August 19, 2016

As the Tweeting Elon Musk linked article at The Guardian explains:

Fossil fuel companies are benefiting from global subsidies of $5.3tn (£3.4tn) a year, equivalent to $10m a minute every day, according to a startling new estimate by the International Monetary Fund.
The IMF calls the revelation “shocking” and says the figure is an “extremely robust” estimate of the true cost of fossil fuels. The $5.3tn subsidy estimated for 2015 is greater than the total health spending of all the world’s governments.

The Guardian

The Koch’s may object to subsidies for all industries, but I don’t see them rejecting them personally. They are more than happy to cash those government checks themselves in spite of their ideological opposition to them.  Nothing cures the hurt of grave violations of your personal beliefs quite as well as millions of dollars of infused cash.


The October electric bill has arrived and, given the difference between last October and this October temperature-wise, the increase in electric consumption for last month was > 300 KWH which amounts to just over $80 in additional electricity.

Given the fact that in regular drive mode I can beat any sports car off the line, and that maintenance costs are near zero for the vehicle aside from replacing batteries and maintaining the moving parts in the front-end, I consider this car to be an excellent enhancement in city mobility.  I think I’d like to have two of them, one for each child.

Postscript

In 2019 we bit the bullet and replaced the batteries in the Leaf with new batteries from Nissan. This should have been done as warranty work but the Nissan dealership we had been going to didn’t want to have to pay for that work or do the work for free, or however that works out between Nissan and the local dealership; but in the end it added up to us having to foot the bill and replace batteries that Nissan acknowledged had been faulty during the warranty period.

We basically have a new Nissan Leaf now, but at a price quite a bit lower than what a new Leaf would sell for. If only the maps and guidance had been upgraded at the same time as the batteries, then I’d have no complaints with the thing. As for Nissan and it’s Maxwell dealerships here in Austin, I will not be doing business with them any longer. Hopefully the next car will be from someone other than Nissan.

Robert Reich’s Big Picture for Fixing the Economy

The series of  linked videos below highlight ideas to fix the economy, the top 11 12 points on Robert Reich‘s mind when it comes to our current economic problems.  These aren’t rocket science or socialism, just some pretty hard-nosed factual recommendations; and we’d do well to follow them.  They run contrary to the long debunked refrain of Reaganomics or trickle-down economics that has held sway in the US since Ronaldus Maximus was President, long before most of the people currently breathing on this planet were born.

They also run counter to most current libertarian economic theory. It is painful to say this, but most libertarian thought on the subject of economics is so woefully uneducated that I almost balk at calling them out. Doing so is not likely to be profitable based on the standard of keeping old friends. As I was crafting this article a post from a good friend on Facebook showed up, trumpeting the flat tax proposals of Libertarian darling Rand Paul.

A flat tax will do nothing to recapture the ill-gotten gains of the wealthiest Americans, the people who profited from the latest boom and bust, as well as the previous boom and bust cycles. Cycles that have grown shorter and shorter since deregulation went into effect under…  Ronald Reagan, who was also influenced by libertarian ideas of his time.

Recapturing this cash and redistributing it to the vast majority of Americans through increased pay and investment in infrastructure is essential if we are going to build a functioning economy and not fuel the next cycle of boom and bust.  It is the outrageous amounts of cash that allow the 1% to engage in risky stock market betting like we’ve seen since the 1980’s.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

A word about the composition of this post. Linking videos that are native on Facebook is a stupidly fiddly process, and Facebook is where I found these videos first. Consequently the text intro for each is a Facebook link, while the videos are from Youtube, giving me the ability to watch and comment on each video while it is running.

#1 is raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

MoveOnThe Big Picture: Fight for $15 with Robert Reich – May 11, 2015

There are several common misconceptions about the minimum wage. He hits most of those points in the video. The free market types who object to minimum wage laws on the basis that it interferes with employer/employee contracts, or that it could cause inflation, only see part of the bigger picture which Reich addresses in the video.  Commerce relies on the majority of the population being able to afford the goods generally available to that population.  That means paying the working class enough for them to live on.

#2 is to make work family friendly.

MoveOnThe Big Picture: Help Families Work with Robert Reich – May 11, 2015

I quit my regular job to raise our second child. We could not afford to put our child into expensive daycare, and I really wanted to spend time at home with what I knew would be our last baby, having missed seeing much of our firstborn in her early years due to the demands of an architectural career in the job climate prevalent in the US.  Had it been possible for me to take on outsource work at home, work from home, etc. the impact on our families’ finances would have been less drastic. Had it been possible for the Wife to spend meaningful time with the baby while still working in her tech career, I might not have had to give up architecture for a few years longer, might have enjoyed my final years in my chosen profession before being sidelined with a disability.

#3 is to expand Social Security.

MoveOnThe Big Picture: Expand Social Security with Robert Reich – May 18, 2015

As a current Social Security beneficiary, I should probably recuse myself from commenting on this video. Still, it bears mentioning that the the cap that he focuses on is far too low (because of past inflation) and that rather than set a dollar figure cap, if a higher cap is the compromise solution, there should be a median income calculation involved in determining what the cap should be.  Inflation will continue. Wages will continue to rise. Upper range incomes will continue to get higher unless we re-institute confiscatory income tax (90% as it was when introduced) for high wage earners. Might as well write laws that take it into account.

#4 is to bust up Wall Street.

MoveOnThe Big Picture: Tame Wall Street – May 18, 2015

How I wish this one stood a chance of happening.  I only do business with a bank when I’m required to; unfortunately that happens more today than it did in decades past. The reason for this is the lax rules on banks that should never have been relaxed in the first place.

Most of what is happening today is reminiscent of what occurred at the turn of the last century.  One of the books I’m currently reading is The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism much of the battle the occurred then is re-occurring now.  Nearly daily I get a sense of deja vu reading the news.  I recognize this struggle.  It is a shame that more people do not learn from history.

#5 is how to reinvent education.

MoveOnThe Big Picture: Reinvent Education – May 20, 2015

This one carried no real news for me. Having gotten one child through college and working on getting the second one through high school, and being an involved parent, has left me with few delusions about the state of US schools.  They are pathetic.  So pathetic, in fact, that I paid for private school for my children (Montessori) until their needs weren’t met by the school. Then I took the time to make sure they went to good charter schools, magnet schools, etc.  Anything except the standard schools offered to average Texans.

The objection often raised to charter schools is that they are religious in nature.  While it is true that some alternative schools are religious, the schools I selected for my children have actually had less religious content (generally) than the public schools in Texas promote.  Sometimes people seek alternatives for very good reasons.

#6 is to end corporate welfare.

MoveOn The Big Picture: End Corporate Welfare – May 25, 2015

This is an old favorite of mine.  If corporations get handouts then everyone should get handouts; because the corporations demonstrably don’t need anything to continue existing.  They have no physicality to maintain, being figments of law in the first place.  We would be much better off handing money to every citizen rather than handing it out to corporations.

#7 is to strengthen labor unions.

MoveOnThe Big Picture: Strengthen Unions – May 28, 2015

I’ve never been a fan of unions; still, it is hard to argue against the positive effects that collective bargaining can bring to the employment side of the equation.  Collective bargaining levels the playing field when negotiating with large employers.  Unionization lead to days off, 8 hour work days, breaks for meals, extra pay for overtime, etc, etc, etc.

When capitalists spit at socialism in my presence these days, I point out the benefits that have come to the working masses due to the influence of socializing forces like unionization.  If you don’t want to go back to working nude in the same place you sleep, with your children huddled around you at night for warmth because your employer is too cheap to heat the workplace (read The Bully Pulpit as mentioned previously) unions are a good thing to have.

(Putting employee representation on the board of public corporations, making corporations worker owned, would do more to fix the uneven playing field more quickly than creating an adversarial relationship between employers and employees with traditional labor unions. -ed.)

#8 is to raise the estate tax on the very wealthy.

MoveOnThe Big Picture: Raise the Estate Tax – Jun 2, 2015

Everyone who can work, should work.  The existence of a wealthy class who feel entitled to live off of the earnings of their parents and grandparents is contrary to the ideals that the US was founded on. Contrary to the Midwestern work ethic most of us grew up with. It is hard enough for me as a disabled person who is lucky to get from the bed to the chair some days to justify not working.  I can’t even fathom the thought processes of the 1% who wouldn’t dream of working for a living.

Or to quote Chris Rock ‘If poor people knew how rich the rich are, there would be riots’.

The following video isn’t one of the series I’m commenting on here, but it bears reposting.

politizaneWealth Inequality in America – Nov 20, 2012

It and the other videos in the playlist talk about this same subject, how wealth inequality is worse than it has been in almost a century, and the last time it was like this, the economy didn’t improve until after we fought the second world war.  That should not be a direction we should head in this time around.

Also in that playlist is a trailer for Robert Reich‘s excellent film Inequality for All.  I have viewed the film several times on Netflix and recommend it to anyone who wants to get a feel for the problems America currently faces.  This as opposed to repeating trickle-down mantras in the hopes that they will self-correct and prove themselves true in the long run.

#9 is to make polluters pay US.

MoveOnThe Big Picture: Make Polluters Pay – Jun 8, 2015

I can still hear the screaming raised against the carbon tax back when President Obama first took office and suggested some of these very things.  Six plus years later, it is even clearer that the only solution is to do exactly what this video suggests. Make the oil companies and energy companies pay to use carbon producing fuels.  Incentivize the use of green technologies.  CO2 is over 400 now.  We can’t keep adding it to the atmosphere.  We just can’t, if we want our species to continue.

#10 End mass incarceration, now!

MoveOnThe Big Picture: End Mass Incarceration – Jun 16, 2015

This is probably the biggest point of agreement with libertarian/anarchist thinking on the subject of governance and the economy. The kind of thinking I was most frequently exposed to while active in the LP of Texas for about a decade. The business of keeping prisoners has been a target of small government types for years, long before the average American or the re-emerging liberal majority took notice of it. It is a serious embarrassment that the US has 2.5 million members of its population behind bars; more than any other nation on the face of the planet.


Needless to say, as soon as the 10 were out, there was a glaring need for one more item on the list (isn’t that the way it always works?) So here is the latest one;

#11 Medicare for all.

MoveOnThe Big Picture: The Medicare Solution – Jun 17, 2015

The problem with most free market approaches to healthcare is that modern medicine is too complex. It’s ability to function, to deliver its product (if health is even a product that can be sold) is tightly linked to corporate structures that are themselves an imposition on free markets. Price gouging is a part of the calculation of every new drug introduced to the market, how much can we get away with charging for this drug? And testing and development of these drugs requires large staffs, deep pockets, wide access to the population. The only way to counter the corporate nature of modern medicine is to either subject them to public control directly (which would be socialism with all the baggage that a state-run organization brings to the table. This would stifle innovation) or to leverage the pricing of the drugs and services produced with collective bargaining. It has to be one way or the other. Neither solution is pretty, but the group purchasing option that medicare provides leaves the companies free to do what they do best, produce goods for the general public.


He swears this is the last one.  Makes an even dozen.

#12 Get Money Out of Politics.

MoveOnBig Picture: Get Big Money Out of Politics – Jun 23, 2015

I’ve been on this bandwagon for about a year now.  Maybe longer.  I blogged about this subject after reading several scholarly articles on the subject of campaign finance, and reading Lawrence Lessig’s book Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress–and a Plan to Stop It which is free online now. In my article from last November, following the election, I list the various groups working to get money out of politics.  If you want to get involved in politics, if you want to see any of these many points acted on and made policy, then I suggest you contact one of those groups or get involved in your local precinct for whichever flavor of the two major parties that you prefer (D or R) if you object and say “I want more choices than that” then I need to be frank with you.  Including more choices than those two on ballots requires more work than even the 12 points addressed here would require.  You’re welcome to engage in that struggle if you have the strength for it. Or just go vote when the time comes. If you don’t know where that is, go here.

His book Saving Capitalism should be in bookstores (if you can find one) soon.  You can vote on which one of these 12 ideas will be a new campaign for Moveon to promote here.  Has to be #12 for me.

Years of Living Dangerously & Katharine Hayhoe

I’ve been watching “Years of Living Dangerously” every week (it’s moving to Monday this week) since it first aired. It’s free for the rest of today on Showtime online.

I like the presentation of the episodes through the eyes of the various personalities (Arnold Schwarzenegger, Harrison Ford, Don Cheadle, etc) but I especially can appreciate the careful approach they’ve taken to show just how far climate denial is from the reality of climate change, and taking the time to talk to some of the more vociferous climate deniers, as well as including the wide range of people who want to act to prevent further harm to the climate, including climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe.

Katharine Hayhoe was also the featured interview last week on what is rapidly becoming my favorite podcast, Inquiring Minds. Here is a snippet of the blurb from their Soundcloud page:

Why is Hayhoe in the spotlight? Simply put, 25 to 30 percent of Americans are evangelical Christians, and their belief in the science of global warming is well below the national average. And if anyone has a chance of reaching this vast and important audience, Hayhoe does. “I feel like the conservative community, the evangelical community, and many other Christian communities, I feel like we have been lied to,” explains Hayhoe on this week’s episode. “We have been given information about climate change that is not true. We have been told that it is incompatible with our values, whereas in fact it’s entirely compatible with conservative and with Christian values.”

(All the historical episodes of this show have been removed from Soundcloud. Embed changed to Spotify. -ed.)

This one was #32 Katharine Hayhoe – Climate Science and Christianity. I highly recommend both the podcast and the show. Give them a try, you may learn something.

(Originally posted here)

Religion/Spiritualism? How about Pragmatism.

I updated my ghost story yesterday because I was engaged in a long running conversation on this thread on Facebook.  Started with a meme image composed mostly of the text “Religion is for people afraid of going to hell, Spirituality is for people who have already been there” can we say “false dichotomy”? I knew that you could.

I’m sticking to my guns on the subject.  Skepticism (and through it pragmatism) is how you live in the real world, not getting sidetracked by all the woo we encounter in our daily lives. If you disagree, prove any of the stuff that skeptics question. Should be easy enough if it’s true. If you know of a medium that you think of as reliable (a mediumship conference being where the image that started the thread was found) I would recommend you send them to The Million Dollar Challenge, or one of the other testing challenges (this is one of the points I’ve changed my opinion on since jotting down my ghost story the first time.  There is a value in exposing the vast number of charlatans out there who prey on the believing. The number is growing, even) They are looking to find someone with a genuine talent, and not someone engaged in cheap theatrics.   Haven’t found anyone yet.

On a related note (in case you are confused on the subject) Climate deniers are not skeptics; they are peddlers of woo as certainly as any charlatan medium who claims to speak to the dead. Deniers in general are not skeptics any more than religious people can be Objectivists; there is a standard for evidence which must be met for a belief to be established as fact in both those systems. Denying science disqualifies you from claiming the label skeptic or the label objectivist.  I only wish I could stop people from claiming labels that they don’t deserve.  The most I can do is pushback against their unwarranted claims, exposing the manipulation behind the curtain.

I don’t embark on this course because I see no value in a good yarn, or the thought-provoking nature of a good parable.  I put the brakes on this journey down woo avenue because, in the end, science is the only method we’ve ever discovered for determining what the truth is. An anecdote (like my ghost experience) remains exactly what it was. You cannot pile up anecdotes and create evidence. You simply have a pile of anecdotes.

Scientists are not altering what is acceptable evidence, or the scientific process. Those that do fall prey to false patterns and charlatans, Randi proved this by recruiting shills into some of the early paranormal studies, demonstrating that a good magician can create the illusion of paranormal activity quite easily.

The problem with any psi phenomenon is that there is no known mechanism which can explain how these things happen. Without a mechanism, there is no basis on which to gather evidence. That is where psi research has been stuck since the 60’s.

The best defense, for the flawed pattern recognition machines that we are, is to remain skeptical. Had I accepted what believers told me back when I had my experience, I’d be deep in the woo now, trying to defend photo and sound anomalies as legitimate signs of paranormal activity (probably desperately trying to prove that rods exist) rather than looking into the machines used to capture this ‘evidence’ and discovering that the machines themselves are the cause of them.

The experiences remain exactly what they always have been. Inexplicable experiences, until we find a mechanism that might cause them. Then they aren’t paranormal experiences anymore. You might say, of your own experiences “I wasn’t hallucinating” and yet it remains entirely possible. The human brain is quite an amazingly adaptive organ. The process of remembering the experience alters the experience in memory. The more times you remember it and recount it, the stronger the memory can become, lending more reality to the images you think you saw. At some point the memory ceases to be a true recollection and becomes a story you tell yourself about the event(s).

Without scientific rigor, there isn’t anything we can say we know.

Our Hearts Weep for You West, Texas

Yes, I KNOW that this is a cheap shot, but I simply cannot resist. On April 17th, 2013, a fertilizer storage facility exploded, killing fifteen people and injuring more than 160. The people of West deserve more than to be remembered as the point of a political meme, but this example of corporate largesse begs to be stated as bluntly as possible.

For the last 40 years, corporations have successfully brainwashed the voters, most of whom now believe “regulation” is a bad word, and believe that governments who want to prevent corporations from maximizing their own profits, regardless of consequences, are evil. How many times have you heard the mantra that OSHA interfered with my business? Staffing and funding OSHA has been demonstrably reduced because of calls for deregulation.

Corporations are not evil any more than government is evil. However, they do exist to make profit, for themselves and for their stockholders, and they exist for no other purpose. It is up to government to ensure that corporations function within the parameters of protecting the environment and ensuring the safety of innocents who just happen to live nearby. It is long past time that we stop viewing government regulation as a bad thing. What the current US and Texas state governments needs to embrace is the notion of smart regulation, regulation that serves the higher purposes embraced by the majority of humanity. This includes protecting the environment and public safety, something wholly lacking in current Texas regulations.

The Senator from Canada and the congressional rep for West, Texas and the surrounding area have made the issue a political football because of their stands against Hurricane Sandy relief, while simultaneously asking for aid for this. This hypocrisy cries out to be corrected.

Facebook Status and related edited comments backdated to the blog. A h/t to a Facebook friend is also in order here. As of this posting (04/23/2018) changes to the regulations that lead to this disaster in West have been completely inadequate to keep another such tragedy from occurring. The state government still doesn’t know where these kinds of storage hazards exist. Roger Williams remains the representative for West, Texas and my representative here in Austin. Here’s hoping both he and Ted Cruz are replaced in the upcoming midterms. Changes made to the US regulatory codes by the Obama administration following this disaster have been weakened by the administration of the Orange Hate-Monkey.

Texas Standard, Five Years After the Explosion in West, Texas, Very Little has been Done to Prevent Another One